Retail Innovation from the Future Back

October 10, 2018 at TGW Group Headquarters, Marchtrenk, Austria

How do you see your future?

We live in an incredible time.  More change in the next 10 years than in the last 250 years. New technologies transforming the ways in which we live and work. Digital platforms and blockchains, AI and robotics, 3D printing and nanotech .

These are just some of the fantastic new capabilities that enable us to innovate beyond what we can even imagine today. The future isn’t like the future used to be. We cannot just evolve or extrapolate the past. Today’s future is discontinuous, disruptive, different.

It is imagination that will move us forwards … unlocking the technological possibilities, applying them to real problems and opportunities, to drive innovation and growth in every industry, in every part of our lives.

Imagine a world where you press “print” to get the dress of your dreams, the food of your fantasies, or the spare parts for your car. Instantly, personalised and on demand. Think then what does that mean if we don’t need the huge scale of manufacturing plants, warehousing and transportation. Maybe we will even subscribe to the IP catalogues of brands, in the ways we currently subscribe to Netflix.

Innovation starts from the “future back”

The best place to start is the future. The best entrepreneurs think “future back” rather than just trying to move forwards with the limitations and distractions of today. Elon Musk grabs headlines with his bold “Humans on Mars by 2025” vision, but then that makes everything else more purposeful, and more possible. Tesla to Hyperloop to SpaceX, all seem more possible, and even stepping stones to a greater destination.

“Future back” thinking also means you are not limited by your own capabilities. Richard Branson had a fantastic vision for a better airline, a consumer bank, a space travel business. But no idea how to make them happen. But then he found partners who could help make them happen. Partners with the expertise on tap, to connect with his ideas, and together innovate further and faster.

Partnerships are key to the future, connecting ideas and capabilities, risks and rewards, to achieve more together.

What might your world look like in 2025?

By jumping to the future, and then working backwards, you develop a bolder, braver ambition. Shaping the future on your terms, exploring the new possibilities for innovation and growth, unlimited by the priorities and prejudices of today. New technologies will be key, but they are more the enablers than answers. How will they make life better? How will they make your business better?

Inspired by the Adidas Speedfactory, what does the future of your manufacturing look like? If Amazon’s Alexa can manage your home, then what could the future workplace look like? What would happen if phones were free like Jio Phone has just disruptively done in India? How could you apply big data like 23&Me in healthcare to predict what people want? Or the new business models like Airbnb and Nespresso to redefine markets? Beyond the hype of Bitcoin, how could blockchain redefine how you engage customers? And what actually will people want most in the future?

Futurists look for emerging patterns – signals of future possibilities, already out there. Emergent behaviours, adaptive usage, new aspirations. You just need to find these signals, and apply them. Maybe on the fringes of your market, or by transferring ideas from other sectors, or other geograhies, or others aspects of life.

Leonardo da Vinci definined innovation as making unusual connections. So how could you connect the most relevant and disruptive ideas together in new ways?

Are you ready to create your better future?

It’s time to jump to the future. And then look back. Then you will see today differently.

Too many of us get locked in to a mindset of today – of incremental, extrapolating, and perfecting the old world. Working backwards from 2025 you will define different milestones, different priorities to be achieved within 3 years, and even next year.

Innovation demands a future mindset, that will deliver bigger ideas to drive innovation and growth, and new perspectives on what matters most today.

Are you ready?

The future or retail

Here are some of the inspiring companies shaping the future of retail:

Alibaba … “new retail” 

Amazon … “Go”

Aussie Farmers Direct



Stitch Fix


Warby Parker

As consumer preferences and behavior have changed with the introduction of eCommerce businesses and on-demand delivery, retailers turn to emerging technologies to find alternative ways to keep their customers happy and serve them from all angles. StartUs Insights researched over 8000 startups to identify the key technologies driving the digital transformation in the retail industry. This research is backed by our proprietary AI- and data-driven innovation scouting approach, allowing us to provide you with actionable intelligence on startup-driven innovation. This is their summary map:

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is one of the more common technologies already used by retailers globally. As brick-and-mortar stores increasingly face challenges due to the rise of eCommerce, traditional stores are on a journey to transform into showrooms. In these, AR supports vendors to increase the interaction with customers through smart dressing rooms, beacons, or AR catalog apps – resulting in increased customer satisfaction and higher sales.

Virtual Reality

Utilizing VR in physical stores massively increases opportunities for retailers. Specifically, retailers can draw from two core application cases. Firstly, the virtual redesign of a physical store allows for the optimization and even creation of a new experience for customers – every single time they enter that store. Secondly, the virtual demonstration of products holds great potential as shown by the clothing and cosmetics industry. Moreover, virtual reality offers to create a very personalized shopping experience thus overall improving it.

Artificial Intelligence

Through understanding customer behavior (including individual preferences) and anticipating what customers will purchase next, forward-looking retailers make use of artificial intelligence to drive sales. AI has a history of high accuracy as famously demonstrated by Target which predicted the pregnancy and due date of a 23-year old back in 2012. Said to eventually replace shopping assistants, AI also powers chatbots and voice-assisted shopping devices.


With 82% of customers already consulting their smartphones before finalizing their purchase decision, the trend toward mobile will continue its significant influence on the retail sector. Vendors not only optimize their websites accordingly but also start to add emerging technologies such as AR- and VR-enhanced apps, smart packaging or upgraded mobile payment models to their business models to increase convenience for customers.

Internet of Things

In the retail industry, the Internet of Things allows for the gathering of data which is further analyzed to enable more informed decision-making in regards to stock control, product placement, and increasing efficiency. RFID, NFC tags as well as different sensors are used for tracking items through the supply chain and keeping an eye on in-store inventory in real-time. Another application for the IoT in the retail industry is the utilization of iBeacons to send consumers notifications on their smartphones when passing by a store in a pursuit to increase sales.

Big Data

We have already established that consumers provide retailers with various data sources. However, this data is only valuable once vendors can make sense of it. When done right, the possibilities of big data range from forecasting product demand, optimizing the price range (markup and markdown optimization) to identifying target audiences.

Disruptive startups

  • Paris-based Augment connects on- and offline channels through an augmented reality platform, therefore creating a seamless omnichannel retail experience.
  • Virt brings “reality into virtual reality”. The startup’s technology allows retailers to upgrade from simple product or store photos to a virtual walk-through tour by using a 360-degree video rover which maps a location before deploying it cross-platform.
  • French startup Planorama makes use of deep learning algorithms and neural networks to equip vendors with actionable insights based on shelf pictures. Through leveraging AI, their solution analyzed and recognizes millions of product items.
  • SplitIt provides a unique way to make retail purchases by removing a barrier that often stops consumers to finalize a purchase. SplitIt 360° offers consumers to pay by using their existing credit cards and divide the total cost across as many interest-free payments as they choose.
  • Israeli WiseShelf develops a solution that is designed to improve stock status visibility via an appliance that is mounted on top of any standard retail shelf. Dozens of light sensors detecting the light level above them allow for a visual presentation of shelf planogram and can highlight products that need attention or special promotions.
  • Berlin-based MiNODES’ solution understands and retains customers. The startup provides consumer insights through a big data SaaS solution by integrating a comprehensive set of technologies and tools, including state-of-the-art WiFi, beacon, and camera technology.

To conclude, the retail industry is in the middle of an evolution that challenges traditional brick-and-mortar stores as well as online sellers. Ultimately, developing technologies along with new customer expectations will deeply impact the retail industry, making tomorrow’s shopping a personalized, faster, and more convenient experience. Technologies such as 3D Printing & Imaging, in-store customization, biometrics, gamification, and face recognition shape the way consumers shop, calling for vendors to deploy these technologies in order to profit from this transition.

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